February 22, 2023 at 4:20 p.m.
Volunteering in the Holy Family kitchen
Since the launch of Holy Family’s Springfest 27 years ago, a highlight has been the homemade wild rice soup served in fresh bread bowls. Since 2017, Mary Klimek, Janelle Borgmann and Melanie Peters have played important roles in the soup bowl process.
Klimek heads the soup-making team, Borgmann leads the bread bowl-baking group and Peters oversees the kitchen shifts on the day of Springfest when soup is served. All three teams have perfected a smooth operation.
First up is Klimek and her group of about 10 fellow volunteers, who gather in the Holy Family kitchen on the Thursday before Springfest.
The volunteers on this team vary from year to year.
“I’ll call a bunch of people each year and ask if they can come make soup that day,” Klimek said. “We gather at noon and are usually wrapping up by 6 p.m.”
The amount of soup made has increased in recent years because of popularity but also because of adding presale/pickup orders during the COVID-19 pandemic years.
“We had Springfest in 2020, but then in 2021 and 2022, you could only preorder soup online,” Klimek said. “This will be our first year back, but we are still doing preorders.”
Prior to the pandemic, Klimek and her team would make 11 batches of soup. Each batch contains a gallon of milk and a gallon of water, plus all of the other ingredients. Since 2021, they have been making 18 batches, as they will again this year.
The process for making all that soup must be completed by using only four large pots because the kitchen only has four burners available. Each batch begins by adding the milk and water to a pot and warming it to a boil.
“Then we make the roux,” Klimek said.
Roux is a thickening agent that also adds subtle flavor when added to soups. Klimek’s team makes it in separate pans by simmering together and reducing butter and flour.
“After that we add 8 cups of cheese plus wild rice, potatoes, onions and bacon,” Klimek said.
The Holy Family kitchen staff prepares the potatoes, bacon and wild rice the day before so that it is ready to be added to the soup by Klimek’s team. Whoever is stirring a soup pot keeps track of what has been added already so that they do not miss or double up on any ingredients.
“I have four people stirring pots constantly so that the soup doesn’t scorch,” Klimek said. “They know if they’ve had the onions yet or the potatoes or the bacon or the cheese.”
Those stirring pots use long spoons and get quite a workout. Once the soup is ready, another workout begins.
“You need to have muscles to pour the soup into the buckets from the pot after it’s done being stirred,” Klimek said. “We dump it into five-gallon buckets. One person pours while another shields the flowing soup from splattering.”
After this year’s Springfest, Klimek will give up her role. She and her husband, John, have one son at Holy Family, Jordan, who will graduate from the school this year as a sixth grader. Their other child, Zach, is a junior and an alumnus of Holy Family. Klimek has already found two people to take her place as soup team leaders next year. She said she will miss having a child in the school.
“I might have to adopt one,” Klimek said. “They are just so caring about the children at Holy Family. The kids definitely get that one-on-one attention. I just want to give back to the teachers.”
After years of soup duty, Klimek still loves the soup.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “It is so good.”
When Klimek and her team are done, the soup is kept refrigerated until Springfest on Sunday.
The day before Springfest is when Janelle Borgmann’s bread bowl-making team takes over. They want the bread bowls to be fresh.
Borgmann and her first shift of 10 to 12 volunteers arrive at 7:30 to form the bread bowls from frozen dough, which is supplied by Coborn’s and set out on Friday. By Saturday morning, it is thawed and ready to go.
“A lot of the volunteers return year after year,” Borgmann said. “We kind of dust the cobwebs off and remember, ‘Oh yeah, that’s how we do it.’”
The first shift does the forming of the dough into bowls.
“We break up the loaves into four sections,” Borgmann said. “Each loaf is enough to make four bread bowls.”
The technique involves stretching each section into what Borgmann refers to as a little pocket with air in it. The sides are tucked underneath. The team makes around 550 bowls to be baked.
“We place the bread bowls on pans in the teachers’ lounge right next to the kitchen, and we crank up the heat, so they rise pretty quickly,” Borgmann said. “By the time the second shift comes in at 10:00 a.m., many of the bowls are risen enough that we can start baking.”
The next group, also around 10 to 12 people, completes the process by taking the unbaked bread bowls back into the kitchen and baking them.
Using five ovens in the school’s kitchen, the team keeps rotating pans in and out until all the bread bowls are baked.
“When they come out of the oven, we put butter on the top and let them cool,” Borgmann said.
The bread bowls are covered and wait for morning.
“Making the bread bowls has been a lot of fun,” Borgmann said. “We have a great group, and people seem to really like them, so it’s a fun way to give back. Another benefit is it’s a great way to meet other parents at HFS.”
Like Klimek, Borgmann said she sees the importance of supporting Holy Family through her service. She and her husband, Tim, have two children in the school – Carter in sixth grade and Brynn in fourth grade. Their daughter Peyton, an eighth grader, attended the school as well.
“The teachers and the staff – you can’t say enough good things about them,” Borgmann said. “They are wonderful.”
On the morning of Springfest, Melanie Peters and her team take over the kitchen.
“I get there about 6:15,” Peters said. “I’m there the whole day, and we have different shifts of volunteers throughout the day. There are some who come right away in the morning to help me get stuff started.”
That involves putting all the soup into electric roasters. Eight or more roasters are used just for soup while others are used for roast beef and hotdogs that her group also sets up. The team needs to get the soup heated so that they are ready to offer soup bowls by 10:30.
“We are doing it more like a meal this year,” Peters said.
They will have soup bowls, roast beef sandwiches and hotdogs as the main-portion choices for meals along with sides of chips, desserts and beverages.
When people buy soup during the event, the soup is ladled into bread bowls. Preordered soup comes in a container with the bread bowl separate for assembly at home so that the bread doesn’t get soggy. All preorders must be picked up before 9:30 a.m. the morning of Springfest.
Like Klimek and Borgmann, Peters said she appreciates the chance to give back to Holy Family and was willing to step up when asked to take her leadership role in the kitchen. Holy Family has been important to her and her husband, Jeff, as well as their four children.
“Both my husband and I went there, and it’s where our children have gone.”
Their youngest, Avery, is still at Holy Family, where she is in third grade.
“It’s a big fundraiser for the school,” Peters said. “It’s a good thing to help them out.”
This year’s Springfest will take place on Sunday, March 5. To find out more, visit the event website at http://bidpal.net/hfsspringfest2023.